The Sleepers

Today Ronan slept in. He had his bottle and his solids — this kid loves to eat.

Today, one of my favorite poems by Sylvia Plath. I love and fear her vision of the world in this poem, a place where even moments of declarative calm and domesticity hold within them a sense of underlying violence and potential loss. I love Plath, the poet always willing to take “a backward look.” Poems that always read like dream feelings, so difficult to analyze, interpret, understand.

The Sleepers

No map traces the street

Where those two sleepers are.

We have lost track of it.

They lie as if under water

In a blue, unchanging light,

The French window ajar

Curtained with yellow lace.

Through the narrow crack

Odors of wet earth arise.

The snail leaves a silver track;

Dark thickets hedge the house.

We take a backward look.

Among petals pale as death

And leaves steadfast in shape

They sleep on mouth to mouth.

A white mist is going up.

The small green nostrils breathe,

And they turn in their sleep.

Ousted from that warm bed

We are a dream they dream.

Their eyelids keep the shade.

No harm can come to them.

We cast our skins and slide

Into another time.

-Sylvia Plath, “The Sleepers”

5 responses to “The Sleepers

  1. I so enjoy reading your blogs. They take me out of my own life if not only for a moment and see something bigger.

    Many blessings,

  2. Do you know Whitman’s “The Sleepers”? Longer, perhaps not as poignant as Plath, but an important American poetic statement — we’re all the same when we sleep.

  3. Alma Luz Villanueva

    “We are the dream they dream”….beautiful…reminds me of the Kalahari Bushmen’s “The dream is dreaming us.” Lovely poem, Emily…gracias.

  4. Emily,
    Thank you for offering up your abundant gifts and profound grief on this altar for us. Can you tell it’s Sunday? No church for me today. Only the sanctuary of this blog and the gospel according to Emily, Sylvia, and yet another Em…Dickinson, that is (all do respect to ‘Other Em’ if you see this). You conjured Plath who sent me to “Because I Could Not Stop for Death”. Just trippin’, I guess. Forgive me. Love you!
    Because I could not stop for Death-
    He kindly stopped for me-
    The Carriage held but just Ourselves-
    And Immortality.

    We slowly drove-He knew no haste
    And I had put away
    My labor and my leisure too,
    For His Civility-

    We passed the School, where Children strove
    At Recess-in the Ring-
    We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain-
    We passed the Setting Sun-

    Or rather-He passed Us-
    The Dews drew quivering and chill-
    For only Gossamer, my Gown-
    My Tippet-only Tulle-

    We paused before a House that seemed
    A Swelling of the Ground-
    The Roof was scarcely visible-
    The Cornice-in the Ground-
    Since then-’tis Centuries-and yet
    Feels shorter than the Day
    I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
    Were toward Eternity-

  5. I beleive the poem is about a state of unconciousness. Plath is imagining herself as a dream. The poem is irrational and mystic and the whole scene appears hazy in a dream like state ,

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